Two new trendy dining reviews in Paris…Paris is wrapping up in two days!…Total expenses for 16 nights in Paris coming on Saturday’s travel day…

La Fontaine de Mars is located in an upscale neighborhood from what we observed.

On Tuesday night, we took a taxi from our hotel to La Fontaine de Mars, a popular French dining establishment a 10-minute drive from our hotel. We could have walked, but decided on a cab when we were in casual dressy attire with shoes not befitting long walks.

We paid twice as much for the outgoing taxi (the round trip was US $25.52, EU $19) on the way to the restaurant as opposed to the return drive later in the evening. The lower-priced taxi of the night was a newer black Mercedes with the driver wearing a suit. 

 Tom wasn’t his usual smiley self while waiting for La Fontaine de Mars to open for our 7:30 reservation. Us old-timers always arrive too early. Why is that?

Later, our concierge explained that when a taxi is called by phone, they turn on the meter from wherever they are when they get the call and for the time it takes them to pick up their passengers. Often over US $12 is already posted by the time the passengers enter the cab! Wow!

Once seated in the taxi, it’s awkward and uncomfortable to grumble, get out of the cab, and flag down another taxi. We don’t do this.

The staff was busy preparing for the evening’s usual totally booked tourist crowd, often Americans, from what we read online.

Taxi drivers in Paris don’t negotiate as they have in many other countries we’ve visited. Actually, unlike many parts of the world in general haggling over product and service prices is considered tacky in Paris. Then again, we never haggled over the price of services in Minnesota.

Arriving 15 minutes early for our reservation, we walked up and down the charming neighborhood taking a few photos and noting the number of restaurants ,many of which were highly recommend and a bit too pricey for every night dining.

This tiny room where we dined had seating for 16. The restaurant appeared to be a converted house with three of four rooms such as this on the second level, which we read was preferable to dining on the loud, busy main floor. However, some may prefer the more lively pace.

Had we stayed in Paris for a shorter visit spending less overall, it would have been worth trying a few other restaurants in this special area with several restaurants owned by the famous chef, Christian Constant who’s creative influence was apparent in La Fontaine de Mars with many unique items on the menu, many of which I’d love to have tried had I been able.

Trip Advisor rated La Fontaine de Mars #361 of 12,672 (the number of restaurants in Paris on TripAdvisor has increased by almost 100 since our arrival in Paris two weeks ago).

This is the menu with prices in Euros. US $10 converts to EU $7.48 based on today’s rates.

Unfortunately, the limitations of my way of eating limits my menu options with many flour laden sauces and side dishes. As for Tom and his limited taste buds dictate that he order mostly beef and pork and potatoes for a side dish. Many options in finer establishments include beans, lentils, and varying forms of rice, none of which he’s willing to try.

As a result, Tom chose the filet mignon with fries and I did the same, exchanging the fries for spinach when the menu indicated Bearnaise sauce was served with the steak. Bearnaise sauce typically isn’t made with flour, starch, or sugar.

The opposite side of the room in which we dined at La Fontaine de Mars.

Béarnaise sauce is made with butter and egg yolks, not unlike Hollandaise sauce but, with the addition of finely chopped fresh tarragon, shallots, wine vinegar, and white wine.

When the gravy boat of Bearnaise sauce was placed on the table with a small spoon on the side, I took a taste knowing Tom wouldn’t try it. It was heavenly! I could have eaten the entire portion with the spoon. I almost did when scooping a sizable dollop on each bite of my rare, cooked to perfection steak.

My filet mignon on a bed of spinach. I moved over the steak and piled the sauce on the spinach. My way of eating encourages eating lots of fat, excluding trans fat and vegetable oils, but includes animal fat, butter, coconut and olive oil, avocados, and nuts.

I chose the spinach as opposed to the fried potatoes in order to smear as much of the Bearnaise sauce over it as well. It was delicious, to say the least. I’d considered a salad, but again, olive oil atop a bunch of greens doesn’t do it for me.

The steak, spinach, and Béarnaise sauce consisted of my entire meal, leaving me hungry after returning to our hotel later in the evening. I took out the nuts and topped off my evening and my appetite. 

Tom’s filet mignon with fries and butter for the breadbasket.

Tom had the bread (which at this point he’s tired of crusty bread), the medium-sized portion of fries, and the steak sans sauce. None of the appetizers or desserts appealed to him.

We share a one-liter bottle of “still” water. Our total bill for dinner US $96.20, EU $72 plus the taxi fare of US $25.52, EU $19.

By the time I remembered to take this photo, I’d already consumed half of this server of Bearnaise sauce.

This restaurant had become more popular over the past several years after Obama’s had visited in 2009 which had no influence on our decision to select this restaurant. We discovered this fact after we’d found the listing on TripAdvisor and booked the reservation. The concierge at our hotel shared the Obama story which we later found online at this link.

Apparently, after their visit, visiting Americans stormed the restaurant as a favorite place to dine in Paris making getting a reservation difficult five years later.

Our bill, which converted to US $96.20.

Overall, it was very good.  It would have been fun to be with a group ordering numerous appetizers, desserts, and wines to share. Otherwise, the cost to do so for a couple could easily bring the bill upwards of US $300, EU $224 by each adding an appetizer and a dessert, plus one bottle of lower priced wine.

View from the upper level of La Fontaine de Mars from the steps to the upper level.

The service was exemplary, the intimate ambiance on the second floor was quaint and charming, the table settings with patterned tablecloths and oversized matching linen napkins was classic French, the menu interesting and the food very good.

View of the back of Tom’s head and the busy first level, which many diners prefer or where latecomers are seated. No reservations are held beyond 15 minutes of their scheduled time.

Overall, it was a pleasant dining experience which we’d recommend to others without hesitation if one is prepared to spend well over US $150, EU $112 for an entrée, and a bottle of wine.

Tom, as usual, first in line, waiting for the restaurant to open at 7 pm.

Now on to last night’s dining experience at Bistrotters, rated #5 of 12,672 on Trip Advisor. With high expectations, last night we took another taxi to the further distance to the restaurant situated in an average residential neighborhood on a side street.

Based on the lighting it was tough to get a good shot of the menu. Enlarging this photo will enable easier reading.

Arriving 10 minutes early, we waited with a dozen or so other diners outside the door for the restaurant to open. We were the first to enter having a choice as to where to sit. We chose the quiet corner in the back area away from the windows in a tiny table with a half-moon shaped table leaf we and others opened for added table space.

Tom’s first course of chorizo, which he found appetizing.

As Tom perused the surroundings shortly after we entered, all the tables were filled, it appeared the charming little bistro could serve 24 diners at a seating. We imagined it turned over several times per evening.

The waiter was surprised when I ordered the foie gras based on my food restrictions. He felt it may be too fatty without bread or crackers. I found it to be extraordinary, the best foie gras I’ve ever had. This morning, I looked up a few recipes and if I can find duck liver anywhere, I think that once we’re situated again in a few months, I may attempt to make this. Note the next photo for a perspective of the size of the serving.

The waiters were quick to attend to our drinks, provide English menus, and take our orders. With no beer or cocktail on the menu that Tom wanted, we opted to stick with the fresh bottle of tap water placed on the table after we were seated. (The tap water is safe to drink in Paris).

This plate provides a better perspective of the size of my portion of foie gras.  In the middle were pickled tomatoes and a salad, both of which contained sugar in the dressing which I opted not to eat after taking a taste. The coarse salt and the cayenne pepper on the right of the plate were the perfect accompaniment.

Once again, Tom ordered the filet mignon with fries and I ordered fish. I had no idea as to the type of fish when the waiter’s heavy accent made it difficult to determine with all the background noise. As long as fish is filleted properly I’ll eat any type of fish with the exception of bottom feeders or farmed fish.

The room in which we dined before the other reservations were seated.

On the menu was a choice of two courses for US $40, EU $30, or three courses for US $49, EU $37. I choose the starter of the most delicious foie gras minus the bread, with a small salad which I didn’t eat when I could tell there was sugar in the dressing. The fois gras was heavenly. I cut it into tiny squares savoring one bite at a time, dipping it into the Kosher salt and cayenne pepper on the side of the plate.

This was the room in which we dined located at the back of the tiny two-room restaurant

Tom’s dessert of caramel chocolate French toast looked divine. I watched him take every bite spreading it through the caramel dollops and melting slices of rich chocolate on the plate. He said it was excellent.

The other tiny room in Bistrotters with seating for 12.  Total seating appeared to be available for 24 diners.

Our bill arrived without asking, most likely to begin accommodating other diners soon to arrive for the next seating. Without cocktails and neither of us able to handle caffeine after dinner, we were ready to go. I must stress that we didn’t feel rushed by any means.

This was my entrée, the size deceiving in this photo.  There were two small pieces of an unknown fish atop a variety of vegetables and vegetable puree, although they appear as fruit. It was good, not great.

Our total bill with my two-course and Tom’s three-course meal with no additional items added with gratuity and taxes included came to US $99.60, EU $75, less than we’d expected when we booked the reservation. Here again as above, with a bottle of wine added, the bill would easily come to US $150, EU $112.

Tom’s filet mignon main course with a side of peppercorn sauce and fries.

Yes, we’d recommend Bistrotters as we have as well for La Fontaine de Mars above.This charming little spot so bespeaks the French style of dining by conserving space, serving consistent delicious meals, all meticulously prepared and served and priced comparably to any upper midrange restaurant we may have frequented in our old neighborhood in the US.

Overall, the four meals we had in the trendy more upscale restaurants in Paris, we found to be fresh, delicious, creative, and with good service, similarly prices:
1.  Les Ombres, Trip Advisor
2.  Bateaux Parisiens, the dinner cruise on the River Seine, Trip Advisor
3.  La Fountaine de Mars, Trip Advisor
4.  Bistrotters, Trip Advisor

Tom dessert, a caramel, chocolate French toast.  The slices of chocolate melted over the warm French toast after it sat for a few minutes. 

The total combined cost for dining in the above four establishments, keeping in mind that the Bateaux Parisiens included the two and a half-hour boat tour of the River Seine and all the wine Tom could drink, totals US $634, EU $474, averaging at US $159, EU $118 per venue. With the remaining meals we’ve had in Paris staying under US $60, EU $45, we stayed well within our budget of US $100, EU $75 per day. We expect that by adding breakfast and dinner, that amount would double.

In London, the budget is comparable to Paris, also allowing us to dine in a few finer establishments during the 15 nights of our stay. So far, it appears prices are similar to those in Paris.

The bill from Bistrotters converted to US $99.60.

Hands down, Tom and I both feel the Bateaux Parisiens, the dinner cruise, had the best food and value when it included multiple courses, two bottles of wine, champagne, and divine desserts for a total of US $270, EU $202 and of course, the exquisite boat ride down the River Seine at night with the lights of the city aglow.

Again tomorrow, we’ll make the 15-minute walk to our second visit to the laundromat and then back to the hotel to pack for the Eurostar train to London on Saturday morning. We’ve already managed a reservation at the #3 spot in Trip Advisor for Saturday night at 7:00 pm. Safari luck.

Over the past two weeks, it has rained most days having an impact on our sightseeing.

We’ll be back tomorrow with more new photos of Paris. As for Saturday’s travel day, we’re in the process of preparing a post you’ll see at our usual time with the wrap up of our total expenses, line by line, for 16 nights in Paris. Stop back!

                                              Photo from one year ago today, August 14, 2013:

Yesterday, in error I posted the wrong date from a year ago. As a result, there’s no year-ago post for today. 

A visit to a museum in Paris…Many photos…Was the fine dining fine?…A day in Versailles on a guided tour…We’ve walked 23 miles (37 km) so far!

Tom, standing next to an enormous statue.

As much as we’d like to be able to identify each artifact that we share from museums and art galleries, based on the limited time we have when posting daily with photos, most of these photos are presented with little information. By clicking on any of the links, you will be directed to more detailed information. However, we invite you to contact us about a specific item which we’ll be happy to research on your behalf. 

Also, based on a poor Internet connection and also the number of photos we’re posting in Paris, there’s a formatting issue with spacing between photos and paragraphs. We apologize for the inconvenience.  hank you.

Ancient busts.

A chair that may have been used for a ritual.
Could this artifact be a drum?

We simply have too many photos for one post about our experiences of the past 24 hours; a visit to Musee de Quai Branly, a newer, built in 2006, architecturally interesting museum with a wealth of treasures from around the world and two special exhibitions transpiring at this time: Tatoueurs, Tatoues (tattoo exhibit in photos and films) and Tiki Pop (South Pacific pop art new and old).

Wood carving with considerable detail.
Hand-carved chest.
One wonders what the oversized ears may indicate.

And, today, Wednesday, we took the train and spent over four hours at Chateau de Versailles on an outrageously rainy day. With many photos to post, tomorrow we’ll start a two day series on Chateau de Versailles and its unbelievable gardens and the exquisite rooms and art in the palace, posting at our usual time.

Small characters.
This appeared to be a voodoo doll.
Life in the city.

Back to yesterday…After spending a few hours in the beautiful Musee de Quai Branly, we walked next door for our 7:00 pm reservation at the upscale restaurant, Les Ombres. The combination of the museum and the restaurant located in the lush garden of the museum were ideal for a fully rewarding experience.

Asian art.
Religious artwork.

Entrance to the museum (to which we walked) was US $24, EU $18, and dinner which we’ll describe at the end of today’s post was less than we’d expected at US $155, EU $116 for dining in a gourmet French restaurant.  Of course, a few bottles of champagne or wine, of which we didn’t partake, could easily sail the bill up to hundreds more.

Painting of dapper man.
Wood carved mask with a crucifix.

Built in 2006, as a newer museum to Paris, it had a tough act to follow when this city has numerous world-renowned museums and of course, the famous Louvre which we’re booked to see on Saturday.

Mask carved from wood with some metal.
Tall wood carving.
These were from Haiti.

Interesting architecture, convenient location to the Eiffel Tour, lush gardens, and a wealth of artifacts from around the globe from centuries past, makes this a worthwhile tourist attraction. 

Small wood carved men.
Totem pole.
North American Indian art.

Much to our pleasure, the museum, although crowded, was no less crowded than many other highlights we’ve encountered in the city of Paris.

Many artifacts were predominantly male.
One can only guess the significance of these.
Tall male structure.

At times, we question the design of certain venues when there appear to be unoccupied wasted spaces and long and seeming endless walkways until one reaches the main attractions as was the case at Musee de Quai Branly.

Mother and child.
Perhaps a symbol of a type of birthing chair.

Once we reached the exhibitions, the design improved, as we meandered our way through the dimly lit rooms and display areas. Once again, I commend Tom for his excellent sense of direction, preventing us from frequently retracing our steps in the somewhat confusing floor plan.

There were many artifacts encased in temperature-controlled cases.

With the number of photos we’ve taken, most of which seemed to turn out well, we could literally spend days presenting them here. However, with so many other sights to post in our remaining ten days in Paris, we have to pick and choose what we think may appeal to our readers the most.

Austere and frightening.
Mardi Gras costumes from centuries ago.
This was identified as a bear costume.

If you aren’t interested in art and museum artifacts, we apologize if you find it dull. In any case, we’ll be back with other topics that hopefully appeal to your tastes over the next several days.

These costumes could have taken months to make.
These costumes were made in preparation for Mardi Gras in Mexico.
The skill and time required for the detailing in these costumes are astounding.

After touring the museum, we wander next door to Les Ombres, an upscale restaurant located on the museum complex. Reviews were mixed on TripAdvisor but, we always try to keep in mind that every diner may have an entirely different perspective of a dining experience. 

There was some representation of the American Indian.
Many artifacts appear to represent the need for an ancient civilization to be armed for war.
The interpretation of specific items may be very personal.
We find that if there are mixed reviews, some five stars, and others less, it may be worth a try. In this case, our experience at Les Ombres was more ambiance based than the perception of the food.
This damaged figure is a woman giving birth.
These masks and figures were from the South Pacific.
These are Peruvian artifacts.

Undoubtedly, the ambiance couldn’t have been more perfect. Had we been able to get a later reservation than 7:00 pm, we could have enjoyed the Eiffel Tower light show at 10:00 pm from our table. 

Wood carvings.
Intricate door to either a room or a house.
Another intricate door.

Booked in advance for days, if not weeks, we took the early seating, hoping the food would justify missing this major highlight of the restaurant.

Early decorative items.
Many items were found on archeological digs in the 1800s and early 1900s.
The colors were eye-catching in the 100’s of years old tapestries.

Although beautifully presented and served, the food fell short in a few areas; one, the menu option for the fixed price three-course meal didn’t offer a beef selection of the main course; two, the portions were so small, when we left, I was still hungry.

Interesting tapestries from the Middle East.
Many of the masks were intended to ward off evil spirits.
These figures were almost life-size.

Tom filled up eating lots of crusty rolls with butter but, he too, felt the portions were too small. We both had the salmon which couldn’t have been more than 4 ounces, (113 grams). 

Decorative posts.
We were intrigued by the amount of skill that went into the production of many of these artifacts.
Decorative mask.

Adding the four tiny pieces of broccoli as shown in the photos with a few tablespoons of broccoli puree, that was my entire meal. I just couldn’t justify spending another US $32, EU $24 for a side salad, although Tom encouraged me to do so.

Celebratory masks.
Body piercings are common in many African countries.
To us old-timers, this poster looks familiar.

Tom’s meal included an appetizer of delicious although tiny portions of shellfish and octopus risotto and a chocolate dessert which he seemed to enjoy. Without the crusty rolls, he too would have been hungry when we left.

This photo was from the 1930s in the US.
Many tattoos in Asia were designed as a result of popular Asian art.
The museum currently has an exhibition of tattoo art from around the world.

By no means are we saying this restaurant wasn’t worthy of a one time visit. For those eating three meals a day, these smaller portions may have been satisfactory. And, the service was excellent, the ambiance dreamy and overall, we had a lovely experience.

Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944.
Many of the ancient artifacts were headdresses and costumes worn in war or celebration.
An interesting light pattern of words that was scrolling along the floor as we entered and exited the museum.

After all, we’ve accomplished in the past 24 hours including many miles of walking, we feel refreshed and committed to continue on with our ongoing exploration of Paris with gusto.

The beautiful fresh flowers adorned the already inviting ambiance of the restaurant.
Tom, ready to dine at Les Ombres.
Tom chose the fixed price option at EU $68, US $91.

Hopefully, tonight when we’ll brave the rain again after we’ve just borrowed an umbrella from the hotel, we’ll have a slightly more at an Italian restaurant we’ve agreed to try with several non-pasta items on the menu that will work for me.

Butter arrived at the table imprinted with “Marie Antoinette.”
These warm cheese-filled buns arrived before dinner. Tom said they were good.
Tom lobster, prawns, and octopus risotto was delicious but a tiny portion.

Look for Part 1 of our Versailles series starting tomorrow when early in the morning we’ll head back to the lobby of the hotel, armed with our laptops, fresh mugs of our favorite iced tea, and the excitement of sharing another fabulous Paris experience with our readers all over the world.

We both had the same main dish (entrée in French translates to “appetizer”, grilled salmon topped with shredded cabbage and a slice of cauliflower. These four bits of broccoli were no larger than the end of a thumb. This consisted of my entire meal, not quite enough after a busy day of walking for hours.
Tom dessert. At the top, is a rolled filled chocolate cake with a Grenache frosting garnished with chocolate candy sticks. Below is a dollop of chocolate ice cream atop of spoonful of a chocolate sauce containing chunks of chocolate.
Our dinner bill at EU $116 was slightly under US $155, based on today’s exchange rate.
View of the Eiffel Tower from Les Ombres Restaurant.

Photo from one year ago today, August 6, 2013:
No photos were posted a year ago on this date when our discussion revolved around how much we’d budgeted for our monthly expenses for our travel. For details of that post, please click here.